Posts Tagged ‘Vickery Eckhoff’
The Daily Pitchfork, which I hope you will consider subscribing to, is off to a fantastic start. Our most recent piece is an excellent article by Vickery Eckhoff on the sloppy reporting on wild horses in the American west. It is a careful and somewhat jaw dropping revelation of how extensively journalists twist messages to avoid upsetting the status quo. Enjoy. Subscribe!
Michael Moss’ powerful New York Times’ investigation into the United States Department of Agriculture’s Meat Animal Research Center (“U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer In Quest For Profit”) predictably outraged readers. The collective angst came not just because of the center’s ghoulish and inept experimentation; not just because the research animals suffered to boost profits in the livestock industry; but because the public learned that taxpayers had footed the bill — and had been doing so — for fifty years.
Compare that discovery to the recent media attention given to a very similar program, one involving even more animals, conducted to boost livestock industry profits, costing even more taxpayer dollars, and degrading millions of acres of public rangelands in the American West: The Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burros Program (WHB).
Read more here.
Last year, when hundreds of hip Brooklynites ate a horse meat (and fois gras) sandwich at a food festival, my guess is that they thought they were indulging in something off-the-culinary grid. To an extent, that exoticism, verified in the swooning blogs and foodie reports, was part of the appeal, if not the entirety of it. However, as the current debate over horse meat intensifies—as it is now doing on several levels—it’s becoming clear that even the most nibbling support for horse meat establishes the basis for the rise of a new animal-based industry prepared to play its own dirty tricks as its shoves yet another unethical product down the global gullet.
Last week I posted on a Valley Meat Company employee, Tim Sappington,who shot a horse on YouTube to, presumably, deliver a message to animal rights activists. As I noted, Valley Meat initially made it clear that the company had nothing to do with Sappington’s decision, one that it would go on to call, somewhat stunningly, “euthanasia.” What I did not make clear, however, was the fact that Valley Meat does have a vested interest in dead horses.
Yesterday’s press release by Front Range Equine Rescue reports that “Valley Meat, which was previously suspended for inhumane handling of animals it was slaughtering, is aggressively pushing to become the first company in America since 2007 to engage in the inhumane practice of horse slaughter.” Indeed, New Mexico, where Valley Meat is located, is one of five states taking concrete legislative steps to reinstate domestic horse slaughter.
Journalists reporting on this issue have judiciously highlighted the numerous problems with this endeavor, notably the injustice of taxpayers supporting the inspection of slaughterhouses for a product that’s illegal to sell within their own borders. What companies such as Valley Meat are attempting to do is, as we are coming to learn, profit from the industrial waste of the horse industry—in this case horse bodies—with minimal regulation and maximum federal support. This is, in essence, a scam, one that journalists have every right to investigate.
There is, however, something even more sinister developing around the revival of horse slaughter. You think Ag-Gag laws are unjust? Well, consider how Valley Meats has responded to critical journalistic coverage of both Sappington’s act of aggression and the company’s plan to expand operations to include horse slaughter. According to Front Range Equine Rescue, the following (terribly written) letter was sent by an attorney for Valley Meats to a journalist who has extensively covered the issue of horse slaughter:
You are receiving this correspondence because you communicated to a person associated with Valley Meat Company, LLC a degratory [sic], defamatory or threatening statement or aided in deciminating [sic] the information necessary to conspire to do the same. . . . Because of the statements you have made it is my recommendation [sic] that you retain your own legal counsel. At this time any communications you made that threaten or harass any person associated with Valley Meat Company will be referred to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security for investigation and prosecution under the Animal Enterprise Terroism [sic] Act. Neither Valley Meat nor the Law Office of A. Blair Dunn will tolerate threatening or defamatory statements and will contemplate civil action against any individuals or groups that persist in that type of activity.
The attorney followed up with a personal and quite threatening e-mail that I am waiting permission to publish. In any case: this is how the big boys play, and it’s something all those locavore Brooklyn foodie hipsters should think about next time they bite into a horse sandwich and drool about it all over Facebook. I’ve said it a hundred times here and I’ll say it again right now: every time we eat animals–no matter what the animal or who produced it—we support the corruption of industrial agriculture. You support, in other words, Valley Meat Company.
Here’s the entire press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ATTORNEY FOR CONTROVERSIAL HORSE SLAUGHTER PLANT SENDS THREATENING EMAILS TO JOURNALIST, OTHERS
March 25, 2013, LARKSPUR, COLORADO – Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER) has received copies of an email sent by the lawyer for Valley Meat in Roswell, NM, threatening criminal prosecution against others for speaking about Valley Meat’s plans to begin slaughtering horses for food. Valley Meat, which was previously suspended for inhumane handling of animals it was slaughtering, is aggressively pushing to become the first company in America since 2007 to engage in the inhumane practice of horse slaughter. Valley Meat also employed Tim Sappington, who posted a video in which he curses at animal “activists” and then raises a gun to the head of a healthy horse and shoots the horse on camera. Only after the video went viral, and after Valley Meat’s attorney responded with justifications for Sappington’s conduct, did Valley Meat finally terminate Sappington’s employment.
In response to the inflammatory video, there has been an international outcry and articles written by many journalists. Since 2011, journalist Vickery Eckhoff has written over fifteen articles about the tragedy and dangers of horse slaughter for publications such as Newsweek and Forbes.com. In response to her recent inquiry to Valley Meat, the company’s lawyer responded:
To whom it may concern:
You are receiving this correspondence because you communicated to a person associated with Valley Meat Company, LLC a degratory [sic], defamatory or threatening statement or aided in deciminating [sic] the information necessary to conspire to do the same. . . . Because of the statements you have made it is my recommendation [sic] that you retain your own legal counsel. At this time any communications you made that threaten or harass any person associated with Valley Meat Company will be referred to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security for investigation and prosecution under the Animal Enterprise Terroism [sic] Act (SEE BELOW). Neither Valley Meat nor the Law Office of A. Blair Dunn will tolerate threatening or defamatory statements and will contemplate civil action against any individuals or groups that persist in that type of activity.
“This email, apparently sent to multiple individuals by Valley Meat’s counsel, demonstrates the approach of this company trying to restart the unnecessary and cruel practice of horse slaughter in America – lash out and intimidate anyone who questions Valley Meat’s practices,” says Hilary Wood, President of Front Range Equine Rescue. “This is just a continuation of prior practices when Valley Meat sued us and others for defamation, because we publicized true statements made by public agencies regarding Valley Meat’s violations of New Mexico environmental laws. I hope that more journalists address this attempted suppression of First Amendment rights, and expose every aspect of the shocking realities of horse slaughter.”
With respect to the Sappington video, Ms. Wood stated: “While the conduct of Valley Meat’s former employee demonstrates true malice, the death that each horse will suffer if any company begins slaughter will almost make Sappington’s actions look merciful. Investigative reports and documented violations from American and foreign slaughterhouses consistently reveal the blatant cruelty inherent in commercial horse slaughter.”
Hilary Wood/FRER, 719-481-1490 email@example.com
Front Range Equine Rescue is a 501c3 non-profit working to end the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue and education. Since 1997, FRER has assisted thousands of horses through its rescue and educational programs. Many of FRER’s rescued horses are obtained directly from livestock auctions and feed lots, which without FRER’s intervention would have shipped to slaughter. Dedicated to the horses – On the web at www.frontrangeequinerescue.org